The grandchildren of Dwight D. Eisenhower have reached an agreement with the architect of a long-planned memorial in Washington to the former president and supreme allied commander, ending an impasse over the project’s design.
The family accepted the design by architect Frank Gehry after former Secretary of State James Baker brokered a compromise.
The design will prominently feature Normandy, where Eisenhower led the D-Day invasion in 1944, as well as his boyhood home of Abilene, Kan.
Eisenhower was born in Denison, Texas, in 1890. He died in 1969 and was buried in Abilene on the grounds of his presidential library and museum.
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In a statement, Sen. Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican who’s chairman of the Eisenhower memorial commission, said the deal makes it more likely that the project will be finished for the 75th anniversary of D-Day in June 2019.
“I believe we have reached an excellent compromise and that the proposed modifications appropriately honor Eisenhower, Kansas’ favorite son, as both general and president,” Roberts said.
The memorial will be built in an open space along Independence Avenue SW between Fifth and Sixth streets in Washington, D.C., in front of the Lyndon B. Johnson Department of Education building.
The family had objected to some elements of Gehry’s design, including the steel-mesh tapestries around the memorial’s perimeter.
The dispute almost came to a head in 2013, when the House Natural Resources Committee approved a bill to disband the memorial commission and begin a new design competition.
The National Capital Planning Commission approved a modified design last year, but it still wasn’t enough to satisfy the memorial’s critics in Congress.
Earlier this year, the House Appropriations Committee zeroed out the commission’s funding request, citing the family’s objections to Gehry’s design.
But on Monday, it appeared their concerns had been addressed.
In a statement, Susan Eisenhower, the president’s granddaughter, said the family was “delighted” that the memorial would move forward.
“From Eisenhower’s upbringing in Abilene, Kansas, to the pinnacle of power in the 1940s and ’50s,” she said, “Eisenhower’s origins and his leadership in war and in peace is an appropriate way to remember him.”
It wasn’t immediately clear Monday whether the family’s acceptance of the Gehry design would be enough to overcome opposition to the memorial from members of Congress. It wasn’t likely to quiet the National Civic Art Society, a nonprofit organization in Washington and one of the memorial’s leading critics.
“The Eisenhower family’s opinion is just one,” said Justin Shubow, the group’s president. “The design is still terrible.”
In addition to Baker, who was secretary of state under President George H.W. Bush, the memorial got a boost from Kansas’ senior statesman, Bob Dole, a former senator and Republican presidential nominee.
Dole, 93, had pushed for the memorial’s completion as a tribute to the living World War II veterans Eisenhower led. According to the National World War II Museum, fewer than 700,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in the war are still living, including Dole.
“I couldn’t be more delighted by the news that the family is joining the effort to build Ike’s memorial,” Dole said in a statement. “I have known his grandchildren for many years and I know he would be rightly proud of their many accomplishments and the role they now will play in his memorial.”